Texas police arrest 1 in search of polygamist ranch
No word on girl who reported sect
SAN ANGELO, Texas - State Police made an arrest as they searched a sprawling rural compound built by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs in their investigation into a possible underage marriage, an official said yesterday.
The person was charged with interfering with the duties of a public servant for actions made during the search, Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said.
Vinger said the person arrested was not Dale Barlow, the man listed in warrants related to the marriage of an underage girl. He said he had no other details.
The girl's report to authorities last week led to a raid at the 1,700-acre West Texas compound run by the sect led by Jeffs, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The girl said she had a baby at 15 and authorities were investigating whether she had been abused. They have removed more than 220 women and children from the compound in Eldorado but had yet to locate the girl who made the report.
Authorities moved the women and children Sunday from Eldorado to a historic fort-turned-museum in San Angelo, about 40 miles north. Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said that location was chosen because investigators wanted all the children and women to stay in one place as caseworkers continue interviews.
Yesterday, officials were struggling to persuade anyone in the large extended families to give them any information about the goings-on inside the compound.
"When children live in a pretty secluded environment and they're as sheltered as these children, it's very difficult to get them to talk to you and to open up. If you can get them to a neutral place, they're a lot more prone to answer you truthfully," said Debra Brown, who is with a local child advocacy group that is representing the children in legal proceedings.
So far, 18 children have been legally put in state custody. Meisner said more court action was likely yesterday. Brown said that with a backlog of cases in the Texas foster care system, placing all the children will be difficult.
State troopers armed with a search warrant raided the ranch on Friday to look for evidence of a marriage between Barlow, 50, and the teen who called authorities a week ago. Under Texas law, girls younger than 16 cannot marry, even with parental approval.
Authorities were still not sure yesterday whether the girl was among those taken from the compound.
Prosecutor Allison Palmer said other law enforcement agencies "know where [Barlow] is and have talked to him, but our investigators have not."
Barlow's probation officer, Bill Loader, told The Salt Lake Tribune that he was in Arizona. Phone messages seeking comment from Loader and Barlow were not immediately returned.
Barlow was sentenced to jail last year after pleading no contest to conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He was ordered to register as a sex offender for three years while he is on probation.
The search warrant instructed officers to look for marriage records or other evidence linking the teen to the man and the baby. The warrant authorized the seizure of computer drives, CDs, DVDs, or photos.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, headed by Jeffs after his father's death in 2002, broke away from the Mormon church after it disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.
Jeffs is jailed in Kingman, Ariz., where he awaits trial for four counts each of incest and sexual conduct with a minor stemming from two arranged marriages between teenage girls and their older male relatives.
In November, he was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of five years to life in prison in Utah for being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl who wed her cousin in an arranged marriage in 2001.